Name: Michael St. Peter
School: senior at York High School
Achievement: St. Peter has sung in the internationally acclaimed Chicago Children's Choir since 2005, is a regular featured soloist with the group, and has toured the country and the globe through the group's many performances.
Key to Awesomeness: Josephine Lee, president and artistic director for the Chicago Children’s Choir, still remembers when she first met Michael St. Peter, as a sixth-grader.
“He was this bright light,” remembers Lee, who has led the award-winning choir for the past 14 years. “He exuded so much talent and positive energy, and he was so focused, even as a young child.”
St. Peter was accepted into the Concert Choir, the top performance group, as a boy soprano, because his voice hadn’t changed yet. But even at such a young age, St. Peter came to Lee with an impressive résumé, having performed with the Children’s Opera Theatre from fouth to sixth grade, appearing in productions of “Tosca” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Now, St. Peter is a senior at York High School, and is rounding out his seventh and final year in the choir. In addition to a rigorous rehearsal schedule, the month of December brings a dizzying list of performances, including a sold-out audience at Elmhurst’s Bethel United Church of Christ last weekend, a mid-morning live performance on ABC7’s “Windy Ciy Live,” and the choir’s annual holiday concert, Songs of the Season, at the Harris Theatre on Dec. 11, where St. Peter will be a featured soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy.
“The (Chicago Children’s) Choir was founded out of the Civil Rights Movement to bring children of different races together through music,” says St. Peter. “That’s their mission.”
He says that being in the choir has opened his eyes to new cultures, races and religions.
“I owe the diversity of my friends to Chicago Children’s Choir,” he says, describing the group of friends he’s made through the choir as “tight-knit.”
Founded in 1956, the choir now serves almost 3,000 children from ages 8 to 18 through after-school programs and neighborhood choirs.
The Concert Choir is the top performing ensemble in the organization, and through it, St. Peter has enjoyed the opportunity to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a performance with Susan Boyle, as well as in a performance with Beyoncé. He has traveled all over the United States with the choir, in addition to trips to South America and Prague. In 2008, St. Peter sang during a historic tour to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Lee, a Chicago native, said the tour held a special importance to her since her father was born in North Korea and her mother in South Korea.
“We were the first civilians allowed in the demilitarized zone in this area that had never been opened to the public,” says Lee.
When the choir arrived, Korean newspapers and TV stations covered the tour heavily.
“It was great. Michael was able to be part of that,” she says. “We sang a Chicago Motown Medley with all these amazing American pieces and people went wild. It was like if the Beatles came back."
St. Peter will take one more international tour—to Italy—before he has to leave the choir family he’s been part of for so many years.
“I’ve learned a lot about musical work ethic and a lot of self-discipline,” he says. “It’s helped me grow up and has been a really good outlet … and it’s mostly because of the directors, Josephine and Judy (Hanson, director of choral programs).
“This child is one of those very rare finds,” says Lee. “He can do the classics brilliantly, as well as the pop music. He’s just a very well rounded musician and a team player, and I think he’s going to be very successful.”
As St. Peter applies for colleges and universities, he is looking forward to the next stage in his life and career. He’s not sure where he’ll be attending yet, but he knows without a doubt that he wants to major in vocal performance and become an opera singer.
“It was an easy choice,” he says. “I’ve just always been singing. If it’s something you love … then you might as well go for it.”